DraftKings to Sponsor WPT European Championship

Remember when DraftKings had a sponsorship relationship with both the World Series of Poker and the World Poker Tour? I don’t really, either. But one of those relationships has been rekindled as the World Poker Tour recently announced that DraftKings, the largest player in the daily fantasy sports business, has been signed as the sponsor of the upcoming WPT Season XVI European Championship.

“It is with great pleasure that we welcome industry leader DraftKings as a sponsor for the Season XVI WPT European Championship,” said Adam Pliska, CEO of the World Poker Tour, in a press release. “We look forward to providing a great experience for World Poker Tour players.”

Draftkings LogoThe WPT European Championship is slated for January 10th through January 15th at Spielbank Casino in Berlin, Germany. The entire festival begins January 5th and will feature €1.6 million in total guaranteed prize pools.

DraftKings, aside from just being a sponsor with its name slapped on some signage, has been hosting qualifiers for the WPT European Championship. Yes, people can play in daily fantasy sports contests and win seats to a World Poker Tour event.

Eight total qualifiers are being held on DraftKings; three have already been decided, so five WPT packages remain. I’ll be honest, it’s really damn hard to find the contests in the DraftKings lobby. The last one was yesterday for the NFL slate. It cost $125 and had only 68 entries. Top prize was the WPT European Championship package, second prize was $250, and the third and fourth place finisher got their money back.

The first two qualifiers were also for the NFL, but the buy-in was only $20, so they maxed out at 464 entries. There will supposedly be NBA qualifiers, as well.

DraftKings is also holding smaller buy-in satellites for the WPT European Championship qualifiers, but again, I am having a really hard time finding them. Perhaps the upcoming contests just haven’t been added to the lobby yet.

The DraftKings prize package includes the €3,300 entry into the WPT European Championship, a six-night hotel stay in Berlin, and $1,500 for airfare and other costs.

Daily fantasy sports and poker have strong ties. As American poker players, in particular, have had a harder time making a living playing online – or decided not to uproot themselves to be able to play in another country – many found an outlet for their skill game/gambling needs in DFS. Several former poker pros have either started daily fantasy sports companies or taken high positions in DFS organizations.

As mentioned, DraftKings and the World Poker Tour have a history. They inked an agreement in 2013 in which DraftKings became the WPT’s exclusive DFS partner, hosting qualifiers, advertising at WPT events, and sponsoring the live internet stream of the tournaments. DraftKings was also able to provide promotional tie-ins and player experiences with professional sports teams near WPT venues.

Within a couple years, the relationship ended, in large part because DraftKings – along with rival DFS site FanDuel – had to focus its time and money on legal battles in several states.

DraftKings was also the official partner of the World Series of Poker in 2014, again hosting qualifiers and advertising profusely at the Rio in Las Vegas. Three players at the 2014 WSOP Main Event final table even had DraftKings patches slapped onto their shirts.

Taking the sponsorship even further, one of the bracelet events that year was the $1,500 DraftKings 50/50, in which half of the field made the money. For those unfamiliar with DFS, a 50/50 contest is a common, popular format in daily fantasy. Potential payouts are much smaller than in a large field, guaranteed prize pool tournament, but players also only have to beat half the field to cash.

DraftKings was forced to end its partnership with the World Series of Poker in 2015, when the Nevada Gaming Commission ruled that DFS operators must be licensed in the state to continue to operate there. Max Steinberg, who finished fourth in the 2015 WSOP Main Event, even qualified on DraftKings, but because DraftKings withdrew from the Nevada market, he never wore his DK patch at the final table.

UPDATE: I was having a difficult time locating the WPT European Championship qualifier on DraftKings because the newest one wasn’t posted in the lobby yet. As of Tuesday morning (ET), it is now there. It is a $75 NFL contest with a max field of 119.

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